Tim Paine's side will be hoping to level the four-Test series 2-2 in the fourth and final Test in Sydney. (Image credit: Twitter)
The Australian cricket team are on the verge of losing the series against India following their 137-run loss in the Melbourne Test. Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team are on the cusp of becoming not just the first Asian nation to win a Test series Down Under, but they have the chance to erase 72 years of pain to win a series in Australia for the first time. Tim Paine, the captain of the side, has presided over a side which are still reeling from the bans on Steve Smith and David Warner following the ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town. Speaking in the pre-match press conference ahead of the Sydney Test, Paine said he wanted to focus on improving the team’s performance in the final Test.
“I haven't thought too much about losing the series, that's for sure...some guys will use different things to motivate them. My motivation is making sure we're improving, competitive at all times and put up a really good fight against India. My focus has been on us improving and us playing the best possible cricket we can. We want to win every Test we play. At times it's not possible. We're playing the best Test team in the world now,” Paine admitted on the eve of the Test.
Ever since the ball-tampering scandal, the Australian batting has struggled. In the series against India, no batsmen has scored a century while in the last three Tests against Pakistan and in South Africa in Johannesburg, only Usman Khawaja scored a century in the Dubai Test against Pakistan. Paine admitted that the current squad was lacking experience but it is ‘work in progress’.
“We are constantly a work in progress...as I said before, it is about trying to keep a bit of perspective, a reality about where we are at. I think we are showing signs of getting better. I think in the last Test while our batters didn't set the world on fire, most guys got a start and showed that they can succeed at this level. So, in this Test, there is going to be a real focus from our batting group,” Paine said.
Australia made changes in the Sydney Test following their loss in Melbourne. Khawaja will open the batting in place of Aaron Finch, who has struggled in the entire series. Marnus Labuschagne might make his debut while Peter Handscomb will replace Mitchell Marsh. The aim for Australia, Paine stated, was to build a steady batting line-up for the Ashes which will take place immediately after the World Cup.
“The silver lining is that in a few Tests' time we have some world-class players available and we are going to have some younger guys with 8-10 Tests under their belt. So, it is going to be a great thing for Australian cricket. We want to try and settle guys who we think will play long-term in their positions looking forward into the next series and then into the Ashes. But at the same time we've got to find the best eleven to win this Test as well, so it's a bit of a balancing act,” Paine said.
Both Australia and India might name their playing XIs just before the toss in Sydney, with Virat Kohli’s side also making some changes.